V-shaped nick

I have recently acquired an unidentified fount of 10 pkt. Elzevir with a V-shaped nick. No pin mark. As far as I remember it’s claimed that Hansen in Boston was the only type founder who used a V-shaped nick. I doubt that my types are cast in Boston. But, I do also recall that Hansen learned type casting in Germany. Does anyone know where? Maybe there is a connection?

(I have previously in a case of spacing material picked a few pieces of 28 spacing with a V-shaped nick too – so it seems that there was a foundry here in Europe there used the V-shaped nick.)

Here a photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogtrykkeren/16802004970/

Any thoughts would be welcome.

Gott grüß die Kunst

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Well, it just might be from the H. C. Hansen Type Foundry. I am looking at their 1909 catalog and they did indeed cast an “Elzivir”-style face named French Old Style No. 3. It looks like your sample might be of a ten-point font. At that size it could be that they didn’t use a pinmark. Is the type cast to American height??????


The photo shows a very flattened-out v that is unlike the v-nicks on the Hansen type that I have.

That’s what I thought too. I had 8 pt Scotch Roman, and the V shaped nick was narrower. I got it from my old high school in Rhode Island, which of course is not far from Boston.

Here’s a photograph of a piece of Hansen type showing its nick (and pin mark for clear identification). My thanks to Bob Mullen for letting me take this photograph

David M.

image: hansen-pinmark-and-nick.jpg


Thanks for input. The types are cast on 10 punkt Didot-Berthold and with a type height of 23,56 mm or 62,66 Didot-Berthold point, so they are probably post arround 1890 where the common type height was changed from the old Leipziger system on 66 Leipziger pkt. to the new German/French system. They have been used in a small printing office in a small provincial town called Ringkøbing – situated on the west coast of Jutland and about 350 km from Copenhagen. It’s a bit unclear if they have their origin in A. Rasmussens Bogtrykkeri, founded 1874, or Lyhnes Bogtrykkeri, founded 1925. But looking at old photos and the rest of the acquire – I think they are from Lyhne. Lyhnes Bogtrykkeri , later Knud Th. Møllers Bogtrykkeri, was acquired by A. Rasmussen in 1997. At the same time A. Rasmussen started to collect equipment to a forthcoming museum – that’s the stuff I have acquired.
Elzevir was a very popular and common typeface in Europe in the time up to around WW1. I think nearly all German foundries had one or two Elzevir type faces in their casting programmes – all with small to minor differences.
My thought is, that Hansen learned type founding at a German foundery with a V-shaped nick and Elzevir in their programmes. Later he started up his own foundry in Boston and based it on what he had learned in Germany. So finding out of which foundry he learned type founding at, will may give a hint of the origin of my types and maybe a bit more info to the American history of type founding and the V-shaped nick.
Best and thanks

Annenberg, in Type Foundries of America and their Catalogues, says that the 1909 Hansen catalogue includes a “complete story of the founder” (but doesn’t say what the H. C. in H. C. Hansen stood for). Annenberg goes on to say that Hansen was born in Norway on Oct. 1, 1845, and wished to become an engineer. After graduation in 1866 he worked in Denmark, Germany, and England in “mechanical industries such as engine and ship building, boiler making, and the manufacture of cylinder printing presses.” (Annenberg doesn’t mention any type foundry experience, though.) He came to America in 1868, and went into the Dickinson Type Foundry. He started on his own as a type founder in 1872 (there is the suggestion that he built a lot of his own machinery).

Your hypothesis is quite plausible, and learning what type foundry/foundries Hansen worked at in Europe would be interesting. It is possible that the 1909 Hansen specimen book might have more information, but I don’t have a copy of it.

David M.

Hmmm…. I have just discovered in an old Danish book about typography (Vejledning i praktisk Typografi for yngre Sættere - by Emil Sørensen, 1890) that the v-shaped nick was more common than first supposed.

1. The illustration of the type shows the V-shaped nick

2. At page 16 Emil Sørensen says that the nick (in Danish ‘Signatur’) is a half rounded or a triangle notch. In the later issues of Emil Sørensens book (later he changed his name to Emil Selmar) about typography only the rounded nick is mentioned.

That might tell us that Hans Christian Hansen took a culture with him from Germany to US/Boston and that my 10 pkt Elzevir is just old :-)

Happy Easter to you all & Gott grüß die Kunst

I up-loaded the four pages of Preface & History from my 1909/8 Hansen Specimen Book. My apology for the weak camera shots making the pages difficult to read. But, for those interested in what was said about Hansen, this should be OK. I read that Hansen’s nick-mark was called a “Diamond” nick, a sample reference of which can be seen on page 96, in their ca.1903 Specimen Book of Type.
Note: Hansen’s quads & spaces had no nick mark.
See: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/17039697315/in/set-7215763737...
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/16854342070/

Dave Greer

One of the jewels that should not be overlooked is the fact that Jens has revealed that H.C. stands for Hans Christian, a detail I had never know before. He has always been referred to as H.C. Hansen in all the materials that I have. I am making a note of this and tucking it into my 1901 catalog.


A little update. I have identified the 10 pkt Elzevir fount with the V-nick to be identical with 9pkt Elzevir II from William Simmelkiær Skriftstøberi , Copenhagen – DK (Skriftstøberi=Type Foundry). I have two specimens from the foundry. The oldest from approx. 1915 shows the face cast on a 9 pkt. body. The second specimen from approx. 1950 or so shows the face cast on a 10 pkt. body with identification number 2009/10. The match is only based on the type design as there are no pin marks. From the same print shop I do also have a 10 pkt Elzevir II from Simmelkiær – in both specimens shown cast on a 10 pkt body. The 10 pkt Elzevir II is not cast with the V-nick but have a round primary nick and two small round secondary nicks! I have looked for other matches in all possible and impossible specimens from other European foundries.
Together with Emil Sørensens statement regarding the in 1890 in Denmark common V-nick (look above) it seems plausible that my types are cast by William Simmelkiær and that they used the V-nick in some castings.
William Simmelkiær Skriftstøberi was founded in 1873 and that after Hansen in Boston founded his foundry in 1872. But, (and this is and private undocumented and hypothetical - but for me maybe - plausible thesis) in 1904 Simmelkiær acquired the Fries’ Skriftstøberi in Copenhagen. The Foundry was founded by the Berling family and purchased by H.A.Fr. Fries in 1842. In 1866 or so when Hansen visited Denmark it was the only known operational foundry. Could Hansen have worked at Fries for a period arround 1866 and from Fries got the inspiration to his strange and uncommon V-nick? Could the moulds used for my 9/10 pkt v-nick Elzevir II have their origin at Fries? Have to do some research ….. but it’s a hard one :-)
Gott grüß die Kunst

During the cleaning of the workshop I found a few more types and spaces with the V-nick